The 36th annual Veterans Memorial Day Service in Hattiesburg will have a French accent this year.
The solemn service will be held at 9 a.m. Monday, May 27, at the Hattiesburg Veterans Memorial Park in Downtown Hattiesburg. Ted Tibbett of Lacy Kelly Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3036 said the event will feature an award from a French official.
“This program will honor the 173 names that are on the pillars of the soldiers who gave their lives in World Wars I, II, Korea, Vietnam, and then the Global War on Terror,” he said. “We read each one of the names. In addition, this year is the 75th anniversary of D-Day and we are going to highlight that.
“A representative of the French government is going to give a brief speech about that. We are also going to mention Lt. (Sam B.) Dale, who was shot down on July 4, 75 years ago on a mission. A city in France honored him last November for his sacrifice. He crashed at that city.”
Dale was buried in the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France after German gunners shot his airplane down. Dale, who was 25 when he was killed, was born in Hattiesburg on Nov. 26, 1918, and moved to Columbia in 1927.
He was an Air Force pilot and as a second lieutenant flew with the 56th Fighter Group’s 63rd squadron. Dale crashed along with two other pilots in the village of Le Mensil Fuguet, a town of 200 people in northern France. He was the only fatality of the trio.
On Nov. 11, 2018, the French townspeople honored Dale with a ceremony and by placing a plaque on his grave.
Tibbett said the Hattiesburg Veterans Committee includes more than the local VFW chapter.
“It represents the major veterans organizations in the city plus the City of Hattiesburg, the Red Cross, Camp Shelby and the student association at the University of Southern Mississippi,” he said. “We put on two programs a year – Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11 and a day of celebrations because it was Armistice Day, the end of World War I; and Memorial Day, when we actually memorialize the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice, gave their lives in defense of the country.”
The Veterans Park was built more than 36 years ago, Tibbett said.
“It was a collaboration between the city and the committee, which raised money,” he said. “The late George Robert Hall, a prisoner of war, was one of the instrumental people in putting it together. Then the city maintains it and we oversee it.”
Tibbett said the program will last a little more than an hour.
“Miss Hattiesburg is going to sing The National Anthem and “God Bless America,’” he said. “Camp Shelby will have the 21-gun salute with cannons and we’ll have bagpipes. We’ll play ‘Taps.’”
Tibbett said Memorial Day is not meant to be a day to celebrate.
“It’s a somber occasion, unlike a celebration, which Veterans Day is,” he said. “We present the Gold Star mothers. We’ve been very fortunate for a city and an area this size to only have three casualties since we’ve been sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re going to honor them, and their mothers will be there.”
A reception will follow the ceremony at the VFW Post 3036 headquarters adjacent to the Veterans Memorial Park.
“Hopefully, people will see that’s it more than just a day to burn hamburgers or have a sale at the mall,” Tibbett said. “It’s because some people gave their lives so we could have our freedom.”
On Saturday, the Veterans Committee will place American flags at the graves of veterans in local cemeteries. Tibbett said Hattiesburg will also fly 173 flags along Veterans Memorial Drive for the occasion.